Prepared man sleeps when the wind howls

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Robert Mitchell
  • 71st Mission Support Group
The last time I had the opportunity to pontificate in the Airscoop, I spoke of passion and how passion affects each of our abilities to achieve greater outcomes and our influence on those around us. As I was mulling over a good sequel to that article, I came across a short story I had saved about another "P" word - preparation. Unfortunately I do not know the author of this fitting little short story to give due credit, so I will call him/her Mr/Mrs Profound, yet another "P" word (guess I'm stuck on "P" words for some reason)! As mentioned, the story centers on being prepared and it is entitled, "When the wind howls?" and it goes like this:
Years ago a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.
Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farmhand?" the farmer asked him. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him.
The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!" The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."
Enraged by the old man's response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, and he returned to bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
So how well do you sleep when the wind howls in your life. I suspect we are all experiencing some windy conditions in our lives (no reference to Oklahoma weather intended...). With the high ops tempo, limited manning, deployments, family responsibilities, pursuit of self-improvements and finally trying to fit in some fun time, the proverbial plate is full. This is why preparation is so important; preparation in one's personal life, daily professional life and in preparation for deployment commitments.
Emphasis on personal preparation will vary from individual to individual and understandably so. There are however, a few common things we all can and should consider. For instance, the need for a will and/or powers of attorney, for single military parents or military married to military, the need for a well thought out and exercised dependent care plan. Are your finances in order, your vehicles in good repair; do you have appropriate insurance coverage, are you prepared for severe weather at home (we are in tornado alley you know), and is your spouse knowledgeable of financial commitments, investments, bank accounts, etc? This may sound odd but, sadly, spouses uninformed about critical matters are more common than you might think. I believe there is an old Chinese proverb that says "dig a well before you're thirsty!"
Preparing for one's professional military life is pretty straight forward. It's aggressively completing career development courses and upgrade training and learning the instructions, procedures and laws that govern your other words, becoming qualified and an expert in your field. It's getting your professional military education completed and pursuing relevant advanced education (Community College of the Air Force, bachelor's, master's degrees) to better your capacity to perform your job and grow individually. It's spending time reading professional publications about your specific occupation, and books and articles on military history, leadership, etc. It's establishing a consistent fitness program to improve your health and ensure you're able to meet the physical and mental rigors of a demanding profession and deployment commitments. It's also being prepared each day for meetings, to bring expertise and sound thinking to the table to ensure decision makers are able to make good decisions. John F. Kennedy is credited with actually saying "the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." I didn't realize he ever worked construction.
Finally, preparing oneself to meet deployment commitments starts first and foremost with your personal and professional preparation. If you don't have your personal affairs in order, problems will only be compounded trying to solve them long distance and could cause serious distractions for both you and your unit. Likewise, if you are less than capable of doing your job, you could jeopardize the mission as well as your safety and that of your fellow Airmen. Prior to deployment, training preparations, such as chemical warfare, weapons qualification, self-aid buddy care are very important as is researching the area you will deploy to, the culture, customs, politics, etc. Recent reports on the discovery of mustard and sarin chemical agents in Iraq reinforce the significance of our preparation efforts.
All of these preparation efforts may sound a bit overwhelming, and who has enough time in the day to be that prepared? My boss, however, would say "so what's your point, if it's important, make it happen," and he would be right. We live and operate in a very demanding environment. Our profession demands very high standards and expectations and rightly so. We can all be better prepared in life ,and it takes a daily, conscious effort. Abraham Lincoln once said "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe." So work hard to be prepared and get a good night's rest, particularly when the wind howls!